The Next Big Thing Interview

I’m happy to say I was tagged by Debra Leigh Scott as part of The Next Big Thing blog chain where writers answer a series of self-interview questions then tag a few more writers whose work they admire. I’m mighty appreciative Debra included me, and you can expect to see three “grit lit” writers picking up the baton on the 15th on their personal blogs. My esteemed nominees are Rusty Barnes, David Joy and Clayton Lindemuth.

And here we go:

1– What is your working title of your book?

It’s a short novel called Benediction. It’s gone back and forth a couple of times, especially when I saw Kent Haruf has a book by the same title coming out this year, but I decided to stay with it since it’s a central part of how the story was conceived.

2–Where did the idea come from for the book?

The story began as the image of a grief stricken old man roaming the deep woods, as lost in the forest as he is in his own mind. The question was how to get there, how to delve into the people and the place to get to this dramatic reckoning.

3–What genre does your book fall under?

It’s literary fiction, whatever that means, but I also think it falls under the category of crime thriller. Most of my stories have some element of violence and deal with the characters’ desire to come to terms with what has happened. I’m more interested in the aftershocks than the actual cataclysm. One reviewer recently said my stories are darker than Cormac McCarthy, which is no mean feat, so that might make an argument for being classified as existential horror.

4–Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

For the old man, Sam Laws, I’d put in Robert Duvall. For his son newly back from the state pen, Mason, I’d cast Michael Shannon, because he was so good in Shotgun Stories and Revolutionary Road. Jessica Chastain would make a good Lavada, Mason’s wife.

5–What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A man comes home from the state pen to find his wife has taken up with another man and his father is lost to dementia. Then things start to get really bad.

6–Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Benediction will be published by Fiddleblack Press in early 2014.

7–How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

This book took about a year and a half. It’s just barely long enough to be called a novel, so it was slow going.

8–What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

It’s somewhere between Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God and Denis Johnson’s Angels. Maybe with a little of Jim Harrison’s Farmer thrown in for good measure.

9–Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I have to write. I’m not sane any other way.

10–What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s got sex and violence and beauty and all the other small terrors that inhabit any worthwhile story.

I’m tagging three great writers to move this blog chain along next week. Look for them on February 15.

Rusty Barnes grew up in rural northern Appalachia. He received his B.A. from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania and his M.F.A. from Emerson College. His fiction, poetry and non-fiction have appeared in over a hundred fifty journals and anthologies. After editing fiction for the Beacon Street Review (now Redivider) and Zoetrope All-Story Extra, he co-founded Night Train, a literary journal which has been featured in the Boston Globe, The New York Times, and on National Public Radio. Sunnyoutside Press published a collection of his flash fiction, Breaking it Down, in November 2007, a collection of traditional short fiction, Mostly Redneck, in 2011. In late 2013, Sunnyoutside will publish his novel, The Reckoning.

David Joy was born Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1983. Handed a rod and reel as a toddler, David’s passion for fishing has been the guiding light throughout his life. His mother says that he wrote stories before he could spell, asking her to spell out his five-year-old diction.
Since then, writing and fishing have been the two biggest influences in his life. Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman’s Journey, David’s first memoir, is a culmination of those loves.
David moved to Cullowhee, North Carolina in 2003 to study English at Western Carolina University. He received a BA in Literature in 2007 and an MA in Professional Writing in 2009. He received the 2009 Outstanding Scholar Award for his graduate work, and later received the inaugural Karen Nicholson Best Thesis Award.
David Joy has been fly fishing Appalachian trout streams for the past decade.Remaining in Jackson County after obtaining his MA, David currently serves as the staff writer for the Crossroads Chronicle in Cashiers, North Carolina. His objective journalism, environmental musings, and weekly fishing report have brought a new voice to Jackson County.
David lives in Glenville, North Carolina and plans to remain in the area with the rich culture and landscape of Appalachia serving as the driving force behind his creative ventures.

Clayton Lindemuth (In his own words)
I can’t read Cold Quiet Country without feeling every word.
When writing Cold Quiet Country, I tried to push myself to the very limit of integrity. Truth has the potential to be uncomfortable, and works of fiction have a built-in escape hatch–dishonesty. In Cold Quiet Country, my goal was to create an absolutely evil character, and a good one, and let them go at it.
Creating a truly evil character means showing acts of evil, and there’s a fine line between being gratuitous and being honest. It was imperative for story purposes to create an evil character that readers would understand and loathe to their marrow. Part of this stems from the fact that in the real world, evil people exist. I knew someone as evil Sheriff Bittersmith, but I’ve never known anyone as good as Gale G’Wain. I had to write him.
In a sense, the author must be more dangerous than the villain–or else the villain won’t be real, nor will the hero who clashes with him. Readers want to have white knuckles, and they need to know the author has the grit to destroy the characters he loves.
When writing Cold Quiet Country, I had the sense that I was speaking to two people. I don’t know who they are. One is a young girl. One is a man.
They should each find a distinct message.
I hope you find meaning in Cold Quiet Country

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